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Lebanon sends aid to cut-off village near Syria

April 22, 2014

TFAIL, Lebanon (AP) — A Lebanese convoy of soldiers, clerics and Red Cross officials delivered aid Tuesday to a remote village near the Syrian border that was bombed by Syrian government aircraft and blocked by Lebanese militants fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in the civil war next door.

The aid delivery to the tiny border hamlet of Tfail in eastern Lebanon is a rare example of humanitarian cooperation between Lebanese factions supporting opposing sides of the Syrian war.

The 3-year-old conflict has often spilled over into Lebanon. Sunni Muslims here tend to support Syrian rebels, who are also overwhelmingly Sunni. Lebanese Shiites tend to support Assad, and the powerful Shiite Hezbollah group has dispatched its fighters to bolster the Syrian leader’s forces.

Tfail, a remote village of some 2,000 people, lies on a strip of land that juts into Syria, leaving it hemmed in on three sides by Syrian territory. In many ways, Syria has long been a lifeline for the village: Tfail’s children went to school there, and the villagers’ only hospital is also located across the border.

Lebanon, on the other hand, is reachable via a dusty — and bumpy — mountain road.

Hezbollah fighters have been patrolling the area on the Lebanese side and fighting has flared up inside Syria, cutting Tfail’s residents off from all sides for months.

The village’s population has swelled in recent months after more than 7,000 Syrians, fleeing the fighting in the country’s civil war, sought refuge in the area and surrounding hills. Sunni rebels fighting to topple Assad are suspected to have fled there as well.

Residents say the village came under Syrian bombardment last week, raising the ire of Lebanese Sunni clerics who accused the government in Beirut of neglecting their far-flung residents. Hezbollah fighters had blocked Tfail’s only access road into Lebanon following suspicions the village was harboring hard-line Sunni militants.

On Tuesday, after extended negotiations between Sunni clerics, Shiite clerics loyal to Hezbollah and Lebanese security officials, six trucks belonging to the Lebanese Red Cross drove aid supplies into the village.

About 200 people gathered next to a mosque in a central square to receive the aid, which included some 10,000 food parcels and 6,000 liters of fuel. At least three houses were damaged from last week’s bombardment.

A group of nine individuals, including a pregnant woman, a sick elderly man and seven wounded people, were evacuated from the village in Red Cross ambulances.

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